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Annual Elk Hunt Scheduled to Begin in Grand Teton National Park Oct 10


Grand Teton National Park's elk hunt is scheduled to begin this coming Saturday, Oct. 10. NPS photo.

Hunters -- temporarily deputized as park rangers -- will descend on portions of Grand Teton National Park this coming weekend with hopes of reducing the park's elk population.

This is not a new hunt. Back in 1950, when the park's enabling legislation passed Congress, the hunt was provided for -- when necessary -- to help manage Grand Teton's elk population. Park officials say the current elk population is above the goal of 11,000 animals, and so the hunt will begin on Saturday, October 10.

The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters that apply for and receive limited quota permits in hunt areas #75 and #79. Under the guidelines of the hunt, each hunter who lands a permit can take any elk he or she wishes. A map showing specific park locations open to hunters participating in the elk reduction program is available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.

As a part of their special use permit—and as an added safety measure—each participant receives a strong, proactive message alerting them to the presence of grizzly bears throughout the authorized hunt zones, the park notes. In addition, hunters are required to carry bear pepper spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Hunters are also advised not to leave a carcass unattended and to remove their harvested elk as soon as possible.

Each fall, park rangers strictly monitor and patrol the elk reduction areas located within the park to ensure compliance with rules and regulations associated with this wildlife management program.

According to a park release, the recent illegal killing of grizzly bear #615 by a hunter in the Ditch Creek area east of Grand Teton makes a compelling case for hunters to carry bear spray and be alert while in the field. Scientific studies indicate that bear spray is more effective than bullets in defusing a potentially life-threatening, bear-human encounter; bear spray provides more effective protection for the hunter as well as the bear, states the release.

Based on his extensive research, bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero has concluded that the chances of a person incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly significantly increases when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used as a defense, said the park.

According to the park:

Bears and other scavengers throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) have learned to seek out and feed on gut piles and other hunter-related carrion during the fall season. This represents an important, highly nutritious food source to these animals, and it can create circumstances when bears aggressively defend carcasses and gut piles. Hunters and other park visitors should keep in mind that dozens of grizzlies use the park regularly and may be encountered anywhere and anytime. All necessary precautions for recreating in bear country need to be strictly followed, particularly those that apply to hunters.

The Conservation Strategy for Grizzly Bears in the GYE guides the continuing efforts by land and wildlife managers to conserve bear habitat and minimize bear-human conflicts through education and compliance with appropriate regulations, including those related to keeping a safe distance when viewing bears. To ensure a healthy grizzly bear population, every effort is made to educate park visitors, concessioner employees, local residents and hunters about living and recreating responsibly in bear country.

Rangers will continue to monitor park wildlife and educate all users about their personal responsibility for maintaining a safe environment—for their own health, as well as for the welfare of the animals.


Why don't we introduce wolves (mountain lions, etc.... if their not already there), and that will solve the problem.

Well, at Grand Teton the hunt was actually provided for in the park's enabling legislation. There are wolves, mountain lions, and even the occasional grizzly bear in the park, but not in numbers necessary to keep the herd in check.

My girlfiend and I just got back from the Yellowstone - Teton area. While we saw large quanitys of elk near Mammoth, they seemed scarce through out the rest of the park. We stayed 3 nights in Mammoth and 4 nights in West Yellowstone. While in W.Y. we talked to 2 ranchers about the wolf problem. They claim that the elk population in Yellowstone has been cut in half since the wolves were brought back. I had read somewhere else that it was estimated that the elk population had not suffered much. I'll guess that it's somewhere in between.
Trying to use wolves to keep the elk in check in the Tetons would be a mistake. When ever man tries to manipulate mother nature there are unforseen problems. There are too many ranches around the edges of the Tetons. Wolves will take the easier kill. I consider myself a nature lover. I've never hunted in my ilfe. However, hunting is one of the best ways to keep an animal population in check. I live in the esat. The deer populations here are higher than they have ever been. Deer may be be cute, but they are also pests. Hunting has been the best, and cheapest way to keep them in check.

Re "When ever man tries to manipulate mother nature there are unforseen problems." You're right, but man has been manipulating nature for a long, long time -- and the park service and other public land managers have to deal with the problems we have already caused.

Across the Plains and the West, the bison were exterminated to the brink of extinction, beavers were trapped by the millions and in some places, the inhabitants of former fox farms, mink farms, etc. were simply loose when fur coats went out of style. The passenger pigeon, once North America's most common bird numbering in the billions, went extinct in 1914. Large-scale manipulation

The recent Ken Burns documentary series on PBS devoted a deal of time to the Yellowtone/Grand Teton area. Man manipulated nature there when the Army was in charge of Yellowstone and soldiers were ordered to eradicate the resident wolves --ranchers' dreams come true. Without wolves, coyotes were long Yellowstone's top-level predator. Coyotes are smaller and usually cannot take down big game. Grand Teton National Park originally consised only of the mountain areas, with ranches dominating the Snake River Valley. Ranchers initially opposed the addition valley land to the park, but of course, ranching had already been an introduced use of the land.

A lot of mistakes have been made, and the effort to redress those mistakes also has its costs -- but IMHO, the cheapest way to keep a species in check is not necessarily the best. It is true that predators will seek out very young, very old, very sick or injured prey, but hunters want the biggest, healthiest and best of each species. That, on balance is not always the best way to control overpopulation of a particular species.

Claire Walter, Colorado

Anonymous made an interesting comment in the previous post:

hunters want the biggest, healthiest and best of each species. That, on balance is not always the best way to control overpopulation of a particular species.

That relates directly to an article which ran on the Traveler back in April: "Humans as "Super-Predators" – New Study Offers Startling Information about Hunting and Fishing"

Here are some excerpts from the study reported in that article:

"By harvesting vast numbers and targeting large, reproductively mature individuals, human predation is quickly reshaping the wild populations that remain, leaving smaller individuals to reproduce at ever-earlier ages."

The rate of these changes was also startling. In animal and plant populations subject to human predation, observable changes were occurring three times faster than in natural systems.

"Ironically, some wildlife and fish management policies contribute to the rapid pace of trait changes. "Fishing regulations often prescribe the taking of larger fish, and the same often applies to hunting regulations," said Darimont. "Hunters are instructed not to take smaller animals or those with smaller horns. This is counter to patterns of natural predation, and now we're seeing the consequences of this management." In Alberta, Canada, for example, hunters who are permitted to target the largest specimens of bighorn sheep have caused average horn length and body mass to drop by about 20 percent during the last 30 years.

The research reported in this story doesn't mean human predation isn't an appropriate tool for managing wildlife populations in some locations, but it certainly supports the comment made by Anonymous on the story about elk at Grand Teton. If hunting is justified as a means to "manage" wildlife towards a more "natural" population, hunters will need to shift their thinking away from the trophy on the wall to removing the weaker animals which would normally be taken by natural predators. That's a huge shift, and not likely to be a popular one with many in the hunting industry.

What's the rationale for deputizing all these hunters? Just legal titles that ended up in the enabling legislature? Or something more... Any insight??

Marshall, the "deputizing" is just the way the hunt is provided for in the enabling legislation.

For what it's worth, this week's Reader Participation post will touch on such hunts in the national parks.

I have no problem with the hunts, though Anon and Jim do bring up great points that I'd never considered. Should be a good discussion. Thanks for the quick feedback...I was just wondering if they were "just words" or if there was more behind it. Thanks!

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